Reality television consistently need an elder statesman who consistently work to keep their cast mates in line, and that is exactly what Darren Tieste is doing on the brand new show Crackle show Men of West Hollywood. As part of this stunning and polarizing friend group, Tieste brings his businesses sense and eye for all things gorgeous to the table, while still managing to keep his relationship with partner Laron from & center in his life. I caught up with Tieste to chat about being part of this brand new series, what it is like putting his relationship on-screen, and his unique other passion.
Michael Cook: How did you end up cast on a show like Men of West Hollywood with this definitely eclectic group of men?
Darren Tieste: There was a casting director that I knew in West Hollywood that actually came to me and she said she was doing the new show. She sent me a brief, we discussed it, and I said “lets give it a go”! I got on tape, and it was truly purely by association; I had never considered doing a show like this. I said “it sounds fun, let’s give it a go”!
MC: As a famed photographer, you are now on the opposite side of the lens. Was it surreal or difficult to now be on the opposite side of the camera lens and have to bring out in yourself the same facets that you encourage your photography subjects to show you of themselves?
DT: You know, once the filming started it was really easy. I work with cameras every day and I knew what was expected. I am really natural with that. What was really weird for me was the photo shoot. It’s a still, and it has been long time since I’ve done that. I have selfies, but I really like my Instagram, it is all my work and I didn’t have a lot of photos of myself. I deliberately went first on the shoot so the photographer could have everything the way I wanted, so I could regulate if they didn’t have everything just the way I wanted (laughs). That was definitely a moment; he was really sweet and really worked with me on it. It all worked out well in the end; he was grateful for my suggestions on lighting and everything. He told me he was big fan of my work and I thought “you shouldn’t have told me that” (laughs)!
MC: What was it like putting your relationship with Laron on camera? Reality television is notoriously not overly accommodating or generous to relationships.
DT: No, once Laron got going he is a total camera whore (laughs)! When we started shooting, he was a little nervous and sat there like a mute the first two episodes of filming. It took him some time to warm up. When you have two or big cameras in your face and you’re filming, to see him be quiet it was really bizarre. In the first four of five episodes, he is a little quiet and you see at the brunch and photo shoot he doesn’t really say anything. I kicked him and was like “bitch speak up”; he was just getting comfortable with it. If you have never been in that scenario before it definitely can be daunting. Once he got going and found his groove, you couldn’t shut her up! Once you see episodes nine and ten, it is Laron, myself and Justin basically! The relationship was fine; if my boyfriend was a forty year old lawyer, he may not want to do it, but he is twenty something so he is living his best life (laughs)! I told him “don’t forget who discovered you bitch” (laughs)! He is a great asset to the show and a really big personality; he really is what the show needed.
MC: Next to photography, Mizz Bloom Organics is another one of your passions. Tell me about how that got started….
DT: A friend of mine who is a personal chef in Hollywood were talking about possibly doing CBD or getting into the skin-care area. We did the research and found that there is a lack of brands that formulates with organic ingredients. A lot of brands say “natural” and it just works that you cannot pronounce. I realized that no one uses certified organic ingredients; which is USA certified organic. The farming is governed, and it is really strict. That is really how the brand came about. Before we bought the brand, we tried it with about twenty friends and they loved it so we said “lets do it”. We definitely researched and trialed to make sure that we were going in the right direction. It is our baby that is really growing.
MC: The couple years has been a challenge for so many of us, having to isolate from each other and for the LGBTQ community, our friends are also our chosen family. What do you think you have learned during this time when we were forced to sit home?
DT: I learned that the world needed to have a reset. I work from home, so being at home for me was not a foreign thing. What I learned through my friends and knowing people in the corporate world is that the world could function perfectly with everyone working from home. People were so much happier, getting their work done, and everything was still functioning and everyone was still making money. Their teams were also happy, because everyone was working from home. I thought that that was really interesting. COVID was truly crazy for us all; I had never had seven months in my career where I did not work. It was a great time that we were able to relax at home, with my core group; I was resetting with them. Weirdly, the time at home and the bonding, and stepping out of our lives and careers was needed to a degree. That was a positive out of it. I was actually happy to have the time off; no productions, no meetings, no shoots. People were able to clear their heads and there was no choice. I try to go to the positive with every experience and considered it a reset and knew we all would do our best to get through it.
Follow Darren Tieste on Instagram